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Work moving forward on area highway projects

A stretch of Highway 84 from the Lincoln-Lawrence county line toMonticello will be completed this month, but it is only one ofseveral highway projects presently under way, officials said.

Janet Sullivan, a special assistant to Mississippi Department ofTransportation Southern District Commissioner Wayne Brown, said theagency is planning a ribbon-cutting to open the four-lane Highway84 project later this month. A date has not been determined.

The $24 million highway project was started at an officialground-breaking ceremony on Sept. 11, 2002. It includesapproximately four miles from Old Highway 27 eastward to the end ofthe Monticello Bypass.

The project was part of the 1987 Four-Lane Program, alegislative act to four-lane or improve more than 1,800 miles ofMississippi roads. Under the 1987 plan, the entire stretch ofHighway 84 would receive a complete upgrade to serve as a majoreast/west corridor from the Alabama state line to Natchez.

The present project makes Highway 84 a four-lane road fromNatchez to Monticello. Work is still progressing on the highwayextending the four-lane from Monticello to Prentiss.

The new Highway 84 now travels north of Monticello.

Local officials are working to develop a boulevard to link thebypass to downtown in order to preserve a connection on a majoreast-west route. Mayor David Nichols said the town is nearly readyto move ahead with a project that would add the boulevard, as wellas a frontage road where businesses could locate and attracttravelers to the town.

“We have got a complete cost estimate of the project now and wewill soon be talking with a bond finance company,” he said.

The total cost of the boulevard and frontage road project isestimated at $2.5 million, Nichols said.

“We’re going to have to do a bond issue. We don’t have $3million in the bank,” he said. “We’ve never had a bond issue sinceI’ve been mayor.”

Aldermen and business and civic leaders have been preparing forthe project for years, Nichols said.

The city has annexed the territory on both sides of the bypassand worked with MDoT officials to lay utility lines while buildingthe bypass in preparation of increased development along the neweconomic corridor.

“We also paid off a bond early that was from the ’80s so wewould have a good bond rating for this project,” the mayor said.”We’re doing this with an eye for the future.”

The economic impact of the boulevard project may not beimmediate, he said, but should be very evident in thelong-term.

MDoT is also heavily involved in other projects in the area,including a repaving project on Highway 51 in Brookhaven and anoverlay project on Interstate 55 from the Lincoln-Copiah countyline to Hazlehurst.

The repaving of Highway 51 from Highway 84 to Union Street isexpected to be completed next week, said Donnie Smith, projectsuperintendent for Dickerson & Bowen Construction, which hasthe contract for the project.

However, some work will remain at the intersections on the roadsfeeding onto Highway 51, he said. That work is expected to becompleted swiftly, he said.

Central District Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall said workon a more than $4.2 million project to overlay 11.2 miles of I-55between the Lincoln County line and Hazlehurst should beginsoon.

Dickerson & Bowen was awarded the contract on that projectearlier this month. The project has a completion date of Oct.17.

“They were supposed to start on it May 11, but if they’ve doneanything so far it’s been very little,” Hall said. “Surely they’llget out there real soon, I think.”

Hall encouraged motorists to drive with caution during theconstruction and said there would be some delays caused by thework.

“There will be some inconveniences – lane closures at times,”Hall said. “We’ll try to avoid working at peak times.”